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State Rep. Robert Brooks has helped turn up the heat on the smoldering gun control debate.

Brooks, whose 60th District covers most of Ozaukee County, along with State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), proposed a bill last February that would allow school districts to prohibit concealed carry within school buildings while allowing concealed weapons on school grounds.

Under the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, unauthorized individuals are prohibited from possessing firearms within school zones.

The proposed assembly bill, the "Wisconsin School Zone Empowerment Act," would deviate from state statutes and allow local school boards to decide whether or not concealed firearms should be allowed on school grounds. The bill was ultimately opposed during the previous legislative session that ended last March.

Brooks and Grafton School Superintendent Jeff Nelson clarified the difference between school grounds and school buildings. Nelson spoke about the bill at the Monday, Jan. 23, school board meeting.

"Under the current gun laws, if a parent with a concealed firearm drops their child off at school, they would have to unholster and unload their firearm before even driving into the parking lot," Nelson explained. "I don't think it's fair that having said firearm in the parking lot should constitute a felony."

Nelson was prompted to speak about this issue by school board member Julia McNally, who was contacted by several concerned parents about the possible presence of firearms on school grounds. However, McNally sees this as less of an issue regarding firearms and more of an issue regarding school districts being able to make those decisions, a focal point of a resolution that McNally and others are constructing.

"Our goal in the latest resolution is to make sure that local control is maintained," said McNally. "The issue of firearms is part of a series of decisions that should be left up to individual school districts rather than being dictated at the state level."

According to a Marquette University Law School poll taken last January, 65 percent of people in Wisconsin oppose concealed-carry permit holders having guns on school grounds. Nelson understands the concerns of those who oppose this legislation, and maintains that he is committed to the highest levels of safety within the school district. This includes maintaining signs and establishing boundaries on school grounds that prohibit firearms within school buildings.

"Our No. 1 responsibility is to maintain a safe environment," said Nelson, who could not recall any incidents regarding firearms in the district.

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